15 November 2011

Film Review: Prince Caspian

Better late than never, I suppose.

I watched The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian in 2009, when my parents obtained it from Netflix. Initially, I was not too sure what I thought and felt about it. This is a movie that deviates significantly from the source material, and rather to its detriment, I believe. I'm pretty picky about that--I like films to stay faithful to the books from which they are adapted. But to my astonishment, there was something about Prince Caspian that I found very affecting, and it really grew on me.

It was only after I saw a video clip of an interview with director Andrew Adamson that it began to make sense. I can't find the clip now--I thought that it was one of the special features on the DVD but it isn't there, so I must have seen it online somewhere. However, I did find some print interviews that said the same thing as the filmed interview, including one in Christianity Today. Here is the relevant portion of the text:

Before Lion/Witch, a USA Today story referred to you as the son of "associate missionaries" in Papua New Guinea. Can you tell me more about that?

It's a difficult thing to get into. I'm sort of in the public eye, and I don't think it's fair to drag my family into it. So I don't talk about it a lot. But yes, we did move to Papua New Guinea when I was 11. My father worked at the university there, and my parents were involved in the church there as well.
Living in Papua New Guinea is an important part of my story in another way. When I tried to understand the Narnia stories from a kid's point of view, I realized that the Pevensie kids were going through something I'd gone through. I went to this country when I was 11, and Papua New Guinea has changed significantly since then. When I was there, I'd ride my cycle all around, a huge amount of freedom. Now there's a lot of violence and corruption. Basically, the place that I grew up in doesn't exist anymore, and for me, there's a sense of loss. I realized that's something the kids go through in returning to Narnia [in Prince Caspian]. They try to go back to a place they spent 15 years in, and now the place they knew is gone. And ultimately at the end of the story, for the older Pevensies, they have to let go.

It's something we all go through in our passage from childhood to adulthood, when we realize we can't go back to the innocence of our childhood. We can't get back to the house being as big as we thought it was when we grew up. And at some point you have to say I accept that—and move on and become an adult. To me, that was the heart of this story from Peter and Susan's point of view. And my own experience provided this sort of bittersweet, nostalgic framework for that.

How many years were you in Papua New Guinea?

From 11 till I was 18. So I still consider it kind of my home, because those years are so formative.

So, the person behind The Chronicles of Narnia movies, as well as the very successful Shrek franchise, is a TCK/MK from Papua New Guinea! He's just from the other side of the island, you guys! Suddenly, everything was clear. Prince Caspian had struck a chord deep within me, because it was like speaking to like. The person who made it has had the same struggles and changes that I've had, going from New Guinea to the modern Western world and realizing, with the advent of maturity, there is no way to really go back. Everybody may feel that way about childhood, but for jungle MKs, I think there's an extra sense of loss, because when the civilization of your home moves from the stone age to the 21st century in the span of a decade or two, it's different than anything anyone else can understand.

Just to be clear, the movie that Andrew Adamson made is actually only tenuously related to the book that C.S. Lewis wrote. But while I might have approved mentally of a film that closely paralleled Prince Caspian the book in terms of both plot and theme, it probably would not have wound its way into my heart the way that Adamson's version did.

Well played, Andrew Adamson. Well played. If I ever meet you (and I hope I do), I want to give you a hug and say, "What you tried to say with Prince Caspian? I get it. And I appreciate that you found a way, in your own medium, to communicate to the rest of the world a little bit of what it means to see the world through our eyes. We New Guinea jungle kids have to stick together, you know."


Willow said...

Excellent! Great insights on both your and Adam's point of view.

vespreardens said...

I may not have grown up in Papua New Guinea, but I agree with you on the film. No, it's not a very good adaptation. But it's still a good story, and the heart of the film is very deep. It just gets lost because everyone is expecting Lewis, and instead they get... well, not Lewis. I felt this way with Voyage of the Dawn Treader, too.

If you can actually *get* the core of the films he has made, they are very touching. But perhaps he should have chosen a different medium than an established universe. Then again, perhaps not. We'll sit on it for a bit and see if people remember these films in the future.